The Cashmere disaster within the Himalayan ice desert

British photographer Andrew Newey has documented the lives of the Changpa nomads in Kashmir, inspecting the threats to their Pashmina wool manufacturing.

Shepherds herding changra goatsImage copyright Andrew Newey
Image caption Changra goats being herded again house after an extended chilly day within the mountains

Andrew Newey spent two weeks with the Changpa nomads in freezing situations in Ladakh, in Indian-administered Kashmir.

To accompany his picture sequence, Newey additionally discovered concerning the historical past of Pashmina wool manufacturing, and the threats to the nomadic shepherds’ lifestyle and traditions.

He explains in his personal phrases: “At an altitude of more than 14,000ft, where winter temperatures can fall to -40 degrees Celsius, it is hard to believe anyone or anything can survive in this vast ice desert that is the Changthang Plateau.

A view of mountains in the Ladakh RangeImage copyright Andrew Newey
Image caption The Ladakh Range has an average height of about 6,000 metres. The mountain ranges in the region were formed over a period of 45 million years by the folding of the Indian Plate into the stationary landmass of Asia

“Situated between the Himalayan and Karakorum mountain ranges, it’s the highest completely inhabited plateau on the earth, and residential to a particularly hardy and uncommon breed of goat – the Changra, or Pashmina goat.

A herd of Changa goats in the snowImage copyright Andrew Newey
Image caption The Changra goats are completely at house within the excessive mountains, however when heavy snow falls and freezes, their meals turns into troublesome to get to. The Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council gives fodder and meals dietary supplements to keep away from hunger.

“The high altitude, freezing temperatures and harsh bitter winds in this unforgiving mountainous region are essential to stimulate the growth of the goats’ super-soft undercoat.

“The fibres measure a mere eight to 10 microns in width, making it round 10 instances finer than human hair and eight instances hotter than sheep wool.

“This luxurious fibre is known the world over as Pashmina, the softest and most expensive type of Cashmere wool in the world.

A herder with Changra goats in the snowImage copyright Andrew Newey
Image caption A herder prepares his Changra goats to rest for the night, before continuing their journey the following day

“For centuries the Changpa nomads, who themselves are as hardy as their animals, have roamed ‘the roof of the world’, shifting their herds of yak, sheep and goats alongside conventional migratory routes on this excessive altitude desert each few months, searching for recent grazing pastures.

A herder stands in front of his stone houseImage copyright Andrew Newey
Image caption A Changpa nomad, named Lobsang, stands proudly in entrance of his winter home. The yak pores and skin on the left shall be dried out and the hair used to make a tent to stay in throughout spring and summer time within the Zara Valley

“This ancient way of life is now very much under threat from climate change, fake Pashmina imports from China, the need for better education and the desire simply for an easier and more comfortable life.

A woman stands wrapped up in many layers of clothingImage copyright Andrew Newey
Image caption Village elder Bhuti is seen wrapped up against the icy wind of the plateau
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Two herders load up their yaksImage copyright Andrew Newey
Image caption The herders use the least stubborn yaks as transportation

“The nomads and scientists alike are adamant that local weather change is the largest menace to Pashmina manufacturing within the area.

“The Changthang plateau does not usually get much snowfall, and if it does, it begins in January or February.

“However, for the previous few years it has been more and more heavy, beginning as early as December, even November.

“As a result, food supplements have to be brought in to prevent the animals dying from starvation. Also, the winters have been getting warmer, which has reduced the quality and quantity of the valuable Pashmina wool.

A shepherdess with her goats travels across a mountainous regionImage copyright Andrew Newey
Image caption Shepherdess Dorjee leads her goats over a ridge and into the valley below

“Cashmere is pricey, and rightly so. The Changpa rigorously comb the hair through the spring moulting season to reap the downy undercoat, after which the nice fibre is laboriously separated from the dangerous by hand.

A shepherd runs a comb through the hair of a Changra goatImage copyright Andrew Newey
Image caption The goats naturally start shedding their hair within the spring moulting season and herders harvest it utilizing a particular comb, to forestall it being dropped all around the mountains
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A shepherd holds goat hairImage copyright Andrew Newey
Image caption As with the combing and harvesting, the hair can be processed by the lads. This includes the time-consuming job of separating the coarse outer hair from the finer gentle undercoat
A bowl of Cashmere goat hairImage copyright Andrew Newey
Image caption The wool from a single Cashmere goat quantities to a mere 4 ounces

“Once the fibres are manually sorted, cleaned and hand-spun, the weaving process can begin, which is equally demanding and painstaking.

A woman weaves threads on a loom on her lapImage copyright Andrew Newey
Image caption Changpa women who have given up the nomadic herding life, spend much of their time weaving in the back yards of their houses in the Changpa neighbourhood Kharnak Ling, 180km (110 miles) from the Changthang plateau

“It takes a number of months to a yr for extremely expert artisans to work their magic on wood looms and weave a masterpiece which shall be exported world wide, promoting for between £150 ($200) and £1,500 ($2,000) by luxurious retailers.

Colourful folded Pashmina shawlsImage copyright Andrew Newey
Image caption The completed product: Pashmina shawls, additionally known as stoles, on sale in a high-end Cashmere retailer in Delhi

“Another issue of concern is the increasing number of snow leopards in the region, putting their animals at increasing risk of attack. This is a result of the successful conservation efforts over the last decade.

A shepherd with his goats on a snowy mountainsideImage copyright Andrew Newey
Image caption A shepherd with his goat herd

“The menace to Pashmina goat-rearing would imply the top of the livelihoods of about 300,000 individuals within the Jammu and Kashmir state who, instantly or not directly, rely on Pashmina.

“It would also mean an end to the unique culture of the Changpas; most of them are followers of Tibetan Buddhism, and have an elaborate set of customs centred around their livestock.”

A Buddhist temple sits on top of a hillImage copyright Andrew Newey
Image caption A Buddhist temple sits on a hill overlooking Kharnak Ling, the Changpa neighbourhood on the outskirts of Leh metropolis, the place households who’ve given up the nomadic herding life now stay
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Morning light strikes Stok KangriImage copyright Andrew Newey
Image caption First gentle strikes Stok Kangri, the very best mountain in Leh, at 6,154m (20,190ft)
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A shepherd and his herdImage copyright Andrew Newey
Image caption A shepherd and his herd set out searching for recent grazing pastures


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